Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be one with the flowing rapids? To be swept up in an abundance of powerful water only to make it victoriously to the other side? Many think to head to the foothills of West Virginia or the well-known rapids in Colorado, but a quick drive to downtown South Bend will change your mind.
Once you kick off from the St. Joseph riverbank, a world of swirling eddies and rippling white water will sweep you up to one of the most adrenaline pumping adventures in South Bend. It may last roughly 10 minutes to complete the course, but it’s 10 minutes of heart-pumping excitement you’ll want to relive again and again.
“I learned to love whitewater kayaking about 5 years ago and since then have spent time at the East Race usually once or twice a week,” said kayaker and East Race frequenter Greg Emmack. “There is a small community of enthusiasts that have become my kayak family.”
Many come from all over the region to test their hand at the rapids with a group of friends or their personal kayaks. For many, it’s a ritualistic experience each year.
“This course isn’t the best or the biggest but it’s the original man-made course in North America and that makes it special,” said Emmack. “It’s the perfect place for a beginner but also has just enough to challenge the more experienced paddlers. There are very few places in the Midwest to experience whitewater, so it attracts people from quite a distance to come here and have a great time.”
The white-water rafting adventure won’t be the only attraction to spend time at within Seitz Park in the future. The summer of 2022 will bring a completely reimagined park as a downtown oasis of modern charms and quite literally, power. A new hydroelectric plant, thanks to a partnership with the University of Notre Dame, will bring the East Race back to its original roots.
The East Race was once the site of waterpower for machinery in local factories back in the 1840s. Today it will provide waterpower which will route to Notre Dame’s campus, reducing their carbon footprint. Once completed through phase one, the park transformation will continue with a reimagined performance area, new indoor restroom facility, upgrades to the trail system infrastructure along the Riverwalk, and improvements to the East Race bridge and promenade.
“I have brought many friends and family here and usually their first reaction is, ‘I had no idea this was here in South Bend’. It’s a hidden gem that we are always trying to reveal to others,” he said. “We are always trying to expand our whitewater community.”
Still open for adventure-seekers, this whitewater rafting course is sure to bring a day of excitement to beginners and advanced rafters alike. To learn more about the East Race Waterway or to schedule your next quest down the rapids, visit sbvpa.org/eastrace.